Christena disaster

The Christena disaster was a ferry boat shipwreck with 233 casualties[1] that occurred on 1 August 1970 between the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis in the Leeward Islands, West Indies.

Details

MV Christena was a 160-foot, government-owned and operated ferry boat, which for the previous 11 years had worked the 12-mile route between Basseterre, the capital of the island of St. Kitts, and Charlestown, the capital of the island of Nevis.

On the afternoon of Saturday 1 August 1970 (the weekend of the annual Emancipation Day holiday), the ferry boat was overloaded on her final run of the day from St. Kitts to Nevis. The passenger capacity was 155, but that afternoon Christena had approximately 320 people on board. When the boat was half a mile off Nags Head (a promontory at the southern tip of the southeastern peninsula of St. Kitts), and entering the rougher seas that line up with the channel between the two islands, the ferry boat took on water and sank. Only 91 people survived, and the great majority of those were people that had to be rescued.[2]

After the sinking, 57 bodies were retrieved and identified; 66 bodies were retrieved but were unidentifiable. A number of bodies were trapped inside the sunken wreckage, and these bodies were left in place: "A decision was made to leave the boat and [the entrapped] bodies undisturbed" notes Arthur Anslyn, Captain of the Caribe Queen, who was hired by the Commission of Inquiry to dive the site after August 1".[3][4]

A memorial to the disaster is located on the waterfront in Charlestown, the capital of Nevis; that memorial reads, "In loving memory of all those who lost their lives in the Christena disaster of August 1st, 1970 R.I.P." A memorial headstone is located in the cemetery in the village of Bath on Nevis.

Commentary

Oswald Tyson is one of the survivors of the disaster; in his 2011 autobiography he describes Christena as "a two-decker, partly enclosed craft... she was in poor repair and she always took on water in the lower level. If I had worn shoes, the water would have ruined them as it came up to my ankles." [5]

After the ferry boat sank, numerous injured people were in the water, and as Tyson explains, "the blood attracted the sharks. They had never bothered anyone before, that I had heard of, but on this day the sharks came like monkeys to a mango tree." [5]

Further reading

  • Nelson's New West Indian Readers 4, 1984, Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd. Cheltenham, United Kingdom, Chapter 22 pp. 118–123 "A Boating Disaster"

References

  1. Editor, Web (2016-08-05). "People of Nevis should never forget MV Christena Disaster, says Nevis Premier - The St Kitts Nevis Observer". Retrieved 2016-08-06.
  2. 1985, Whitman T. Browne, The Christena Disaster: Forty-two Years Later -- Looking Backward, Looking Forward, a Caribbean Story about National Tragedy, The Burden of Colonialism and the Challenge of Change. , accessed 15 January 2014
  3. Page 310. Some Background, 1985, Whitman T. Browne, The Christena Disaster: Forty-two Years Later -- Looking Backward, Looking Forward, a Caribbean Story about National Tragedy, The Burden of Colonialism and the Challenge of Change., accessed 15 January 2014
  4. "Diving the Christena Wreck", The Observer, 26 January 1997 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-01. Retrieved 2014-02-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) accessed 17 January 2014
  5. Ozzie's Odyssey: my life before and after the MV Christina went down by Oswald Tyson, 2011, published by the author and the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society, pages 36 and 42

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